With media devices now filling every part of our lives, just a few clicks of a touchscreen means immediate access can be granted to almost anything, and for your prospects and customers that includes your competition. It’s never been easier for consumers to begin exploring what’s out there before they commit to a purchase, which is why it’s now so important for both B2B and B2C brands to move toward to a more customer-centric approach.
The best way of doing so is by bringing data and therefore insights into your business. Customer insights can be defined by the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing as “A non-obvious understanding about your customers, which if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for a mutual benefit.” Deciding to lean operations toward a more customer centric role may, to some, seem like a logical step however, a vast amount of companies are still failing to do so, instead taking a more traditional approach. While traditional research into consumer behaviour isn’t of course obsolete, it isn’t something to be relied upon solely – and this is where social listening comes into play. Social listening is described in numerous ways – social analytics, social intelligence, buzz analysis etc. They are all expressions to describe the same thing, that is trawling the websphere to find the ‘signal from the noise’ and using a tool to monitor and analyse what is being said online about a particular topic.
“Social media data gives you qualitative
insight at a quantitative scale”
The purpose therefore of any newly developed digital intelligence is to optimise experiences while influencing consumer behaviour and of course, help drive better business decisions. So to ignore social insights and the velocity, variety, and volume of customer data it brings, in favour of traditional research, would be to disregard a hugely valuable marketing tool. For many, a much higher cost is perceived, however, a little research shows that actually, the costs are much lower than a number of alternatives. Social data offers a hugely valuable addition to both qualitative and quantitative research making it a valuable addition to your research mix and one that simply can’t be ignored.
Audience analysis & persona development
Within the world of social media analytics, the term audience analysis refers to the researching of preferences, interests, demographic and location of a group. This could be a very broad audience such as “users of LinkedIn in the UK” or it could be a much narrower, more specific group type such as “male fans of Big Brother in Essex.” The insights you gain from audience analysis greatly depend on the depth you’re willing to research. Audience analysis isn’t just limited to your own customers either as analysis of a competitor’s audience can also offer a great deal of insight. For businesses, the very best audience analysis will give you a much deeper understanding of what compels your consumers to interact with your content and ultimately buy your products or services. By understanding your consumers more, you’re then able to add additional insight to your buyer personas and ensure your content marketing is aligned to these insights.
With so much conversation taking place across social media, this gives you the opportunity to analyse the platform usage, conversation themes and topics and general online behaviour of your target audiences. This gives your brand an amazing opportunity to get to know your customers and potential customers on a more personal level; and by utilising social listening and analysis tools, you can extract deep insights that will help you engage and build rapport with those audiences.
To achieve this level of rapport, using a social listening tool such as Crimson Hexagon, Synthesio or Brandwatch is a must. You need to develop insight quality and evolve your content and engagement strategies to align with these constantly evolving interests. Here are just a few of the insights you can start to extract and add to your personas:
- Demographics of your customers and potential customers online (are there only specific subsets of your target market online therefore content marketing must align to these specific audiences?)
- How and what they’re sharing across social media
- How do they perceive your brands and your products or services
- How do they perceive your competitors and their products or services
- What emotions do they exude when discussing particular products or services
- What topics do they discuss online i.e. what are their interests
- What brands do they engage with most online
With these insights, you will be able to create stronger content that will better resonate with your target audiences, be it prospects, customers, partners or others.
Using these insights to drive your creative planning, content production and distribution tactics…
Your consumers are talking, they’re posting, they’re tweeting, they’re pinning and they’re instagramming. They’re sending valuable information about themselves and their interests out into the world everyday. With your audience analysis, you’ve developed and improved your personas based on their online behaviour. It’s now time to start developing your creative to cater for those personas.
Why? Well firstly we need to realise we live in a world of content shock. Just how much? Well here’s a few stats scrapped from the internet. Every minute:
- Blog writers post 1400 new blog posts
- Email users send 204,000,000 messages
- Facebook users share 2,460,000 pieces of content
- Twitter users tweet 347,222 times
- Snapchat users watch 6,944,444 videos
- Whats App users share 347,222 photos
- Instagram users post 216,000 new photos
- Yelp users post 26,380 reviews
- Youtube users upload 300 hours of video
And this is in just one minute.
Listening to online conversations about your business, your products and your services will help you to understand how customers and potential customers are talking about your industry or your niche and therefore the type of keywords and topics, and the questions they are asking when they are searching for your products. The power of social listening is that you are able to surface natural conversations about your products in real-time, which can help you inform the type of content you create to serve your customers.
Benchmarking & competitive intelligence
According to the French author, Francois Jacobiac, benchmarking is a method of competitive standardisation and/or calibration that’s helpful within economic competition. This particular statement from Jacobiac presumes a company wants to dominate the market and become the leader in their industry. Share of voice benchmarking provides brands with real-time insight on the size of their online presence relative to their competitors over a specific timeframe. This kind of benchmarking allows for continued progress and improvement and although it’s a foundational metric, it does help to provide a high-level overview of the competitive landscape. Monitoring share of voice over time can track how your competitors reputation and activity evolves over time as they make announcements, release new products or services, update their features and evolve their marketing strategies.
Moving past share of voice, competitive intelligence through social listening can range from tactical to strategic. Tactical is a much shorter-term option and looks to capture market share or increase revenue. For example, user-generated content about competitors gives you important information about your audience’s interest and preferences. By analysing both the type of content they publish and their reactions to competitor content – you can extract insight into what kind of posts, images, videos and other types of content resonate the most and which types should be avoided, therefore helping you accelerate your content marketing efforts and maximise opportunities to increase engagement, click-through rates and influence purchases.
Strategic social listening focuses upon the longer-term issues such as key risks and opportunities that face any company or organisation. While the concept of evaluating a conversation’s underlying mood is relatively straightforward, in practice sentiment has been a notoriously difficult to measure at scale. However; positive, negative and neutral discussions about a competitor and its products can provide you with very useful information. If customers of a competitor love a specific feature or functionality, you might consider offering something similar. If on the flip side they have encountered issues with a particular feature, this may be an opportunity to accelerate your development of this feature to increase your competitive advantage.
Listening to specific conversations around your products can also help to uncover ideas for future development of said products as well as help create new ideas entirely. Consumers are more than happy, now-a-days, to air their frustrations on social media which makes it one of the richest sources when it comes to brand new product ideas. By carrying out social listening, you can very quickly identify a common issue with any current product or service. Is the issue in question being discussed regularly and with increasing frequency? Knowing whether a topic is becoming more or less common can allow you to realise how long-term a trend may be and subsequently whether it’s worth investing more resources into that product. Once repeated themes have shown themselves, you’ll then be able to conduct a much deeper analysis into each topic in order to truly understand an issue.
” By carrying out social listening, you can very quickly identify a common issue with any current product or service”
Behavioural trends and future behaviours
When it comes to social media listening and analytics, in particular the benefits we’ve mentioned above, it’s clear to see that the vast majority relate to the “now” but what about the future? Well, while we aren’t yet advanced enough to have produced a tool to help predict the future with total accuracy, social listening can however, give you rather valuable insights. Those insights we’re referring to are emerging trends. For example, if your business is involved in the hairdressing industry, you want to know what people are saying about styles, colours, salons, hair care and other such topics. No matter what industry you’re in, keeping tabs on innovative start-ups within your sector, looking for the problems that neither you or your competitors have solved yet and spending time researching alternatives to the product you offer, can all provide interesting information for you to peruse.
As the use of social media for business proliferates, so does its resulting data. Businesses that don’t take advantage of this invaluable information will fall behind their competitors that are. In short, when listening, don’t settle for living in the now but instead, think forward, into the future and hopefully, you’ll arrive faster.